Disclaimer: This author does not intend to endorse, offend nor discriminate against any one particular religion. What follows is simply the author’s experience.
True confessions… as a teenager, as much as I could get away with, I would steal away to McDonald’s and partake in a Big Mac, large fry, diet coke and hot fudge sundae. This was heavenly to me. In college I could eat (proudly) 5 cheeseburgers in one sitting. On weekends at the college cafeteria, I would fill a cereal bowl with cream cheese, toast two bagels, (not 2 halves), smearing and piling the white on white high and wide, topped with jam. Scrumptious! And this was just the warm-up for breakfast.
Luckily, I was an athlete all those years so most of what I put in the pie hole was used up during that entire rigor. Maybe.
After surviving nutrition mishap mixed with gluttony during college and graduate school, I was ready for a change. At the wise age of 24, I decided to begin the clean up process by not eating red meat. No more cows, I declared! I read everything I could get my hands on. I learned that red meat was just not a good thing for the body. I discovered why it was a spiritual act to not eat meat, thus, causing no harm to living beings. Nothing with a face would die on my account. Being a budding environmentalist, I studied how much more earth and resource friendly it was to feed 100 people the acre of grain instead of one cow that acre of grain.
I delved deeply into the vegetarian doctrine, went to meetings and became a card-carrying member, completely devoted to my new religion. For twelve righteous years, I stood on my soapbox (sorry everyone), proclaiming how my religion pointed to the way, the truth and the light. I was genuinely amazed that any educated human being still ate meat at all.
Over the years, my body argued with my pious choices. I lost muscle mass, had weight gain around my midsection, and was constipated by the 4 servings of odd soy products (faux meat AKA Not Dogs, Fakin' Bacon and the sort) that I was consuming daily. I felt weak and tired, compensating by amazing amounts of coffee and a regular dose of chocolate to meet the day’s demands.
At some critical juncture, I went to see a Naturopath at Women to Women for my annual physical. After a lengthy interview and evaluation, she told me, (the nerve), I was doing it all wrong. I could not hear it. I knew the way, after all. How dare her argue with my religion? Perhaps she could tell she was speaking to deaf ears in the way she turned abruptly and left. I watched her long skirt sway back and forth as she marched for the door. I sat there quietly for a while, drooped.
Leaving the appointment rattled, I went to my mentor for more guidance. He told me to go to the woods and ask the trees what they thought about it. The next chance I got, I gathered my senses and walked meditatively through the forest, slowly, quietly, aware. I waited for a tree to draw me in. There was an old spruce growing out of a boulder, its roots wrapped around the rock, reaching into the earth. I stopped. Asked. Listened. I heard, "Get what you need. I am."
Still not convinced, I went to an organic cow farm to see if they had anything to say. I parked the car and walked slowly towards the pasture. I locked eyes with a beautiful black and white cow chewing her cud. We both walked towards one another, separated only by electric barbed wire. We stood close to the fence, staring into each other’s eyes. I asked, “Are you good with
your place in the food chain? Are you good with being raised for human consumption?” I heard, “Yes, it is my role. I am here to serve you on your way.”
So, I researched organic farms in Maine with happy cows eating mostly grasses. I found my farm, checked them out and it felt like everyone was treated humanely and having a pretty good life. I ordered some organic, grass feed ground beef. Here we go! It was like jumping out of an airplane to a place that was unknown. I was giving up my righteous identity and what I had preached by attitude, example and word. I was eating my own cud.
From that modest day in the life of a 34 year old finding her way, I have slid down the slope towards a vast, carnivorous reality. Give me your masses, your cheese, your dairy and chicken; your turkey, fish, and my favorite, cow. I don’t know how it happened. My body was responding well to the protein in my life, so I followed with glee and innocence.
Another twelve-year cycle began, worshipping the cow. Amen to muenster, swiss, and cheddar, yogurt, ice cream and butter. Praise be to the burger, the taco and the steak bomb. Just say no to Nayonaise and bring on the mayonnaise.
All these years, coffee has never left my side for more than a brief spell. She has been a side religion (I like to church shop), a comforter, and a good, good friend. A coffee whore I am. French Press me with dark, bold and oily beans or step aside. Please.
Fast forward to February 2011, as it turns out, the beginning of another 12-year cycle. It felt like time for a little house cleaning and self-evaluation. I began with coffee… cutting my best friend out a bit, to see how I am with less attachment. What is life like without such a charge behind it, without that push? Could I join the ranks of those mild-mannered tea drinkers that I have envied?
In the midst of the coffee weaning, the machine stopped pooping. Apparently, coffee had become my necessary laxative and without it, the plumbing was not working. Unbeknownst to me, this coffee whore was lactose intolerant. I had gone too far with my cow worship.
I found myself in a humble position in the throws of a vigorous colon cleanse and detox. I wanted to do my part in the healing. I did want to poop again, after all. The “end result” was nothing short of atrociously awesome. Plaque and sludge were my friends now, some sort of alien beast that was residing in my digestive tract, had been set free. Day by day, the creature that was adhering to my colon wall released. A strange satisfaction filled my soul as I watched.
I transitioned back to solid food again. The glorious abundance and decadence of real, whole, live, juicy food. And, I watch. Closely. I wait. I listen. I follow the voice as a practice as I enter this new cycle. I shall see what religions remain.
I thought I knew something. Perhaps there isn’t anything to know. Or just to know enough to stop, look and listen for the internal yes and no. The rest will take care of itself.
I am excited to see if the pendulum has swung more to the middle range, the balancing point, where the inner knowing will guide the way.
Jen Deraspe, is the founder of Nurture Through Nature, an eco-retreat center in Denmark, Maine. Jen is a certified yoga instructor, a licensed Maine guide, and a certified coach and facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. She has been leading holistic nature retreats since 1999. www.ntnretreats.com, (207) 452-2929.